Effecting New Antibiotics, Part I
This article was originally published in Start Up
Gone are the days of random screening for new antibiotics. Now, thanks to molecular biology and genomics, start-up companies have a better sense of the mechanisms of infection. The firms think they've found novel ways to interfere with pathogens, including those resistant to current drugs.
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The introduction of new anti-infective drugs has not kept pace with the ability of bacteria to resist and render ineffective just about all antibiotics developed since the late 1920's. Influenza, hepatitis, pneumonia, meningitis, AIDS, tuberculosis and plenty of other infections are killing people, and not just in third world countries. In the US, infection is the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. Since the mid-90's, the seriousness of the bacterial drug resistance problem has caused pharmaceutical companies to redouble their R&D efforts. And the problem has spawned a new industry of start-ups as well. Elitra Pharmaceuticals and Arrow Therapeutics hope to add to the anti-infective armamentarium with drugs that attack targets necessary for bacterial growth and survival. EluSys Therapeutics has an immunological approach, taking advantage of bispecific antibodies to clear toxins and pathogens from the bloodstream. Paratek Pharmaceuticals has taken a different approach. It's attacking the mechanism of resistance directly.
Outsourcing is not just for mundane pharma services anymore. Increasingly, drugmakers are contracting for specialized R&D assistance they expect to provide strategic as well as tactical advantages.
Like other companies investigating entirely new ways of treating bacterial infections, biotech start-up Spero is increasingly aware that novel antibiotics may need to travel new clinical and regulatory pathways to market.